March Podcast - Reilly Pharo Carter with Climb Higher Colorado

I'm really excited about our March podcast. This month we get to talk to someone who I really love working with in the open system space - Reilly Pharo Carter

Reilly is the Executive Director of Climb Higher Colorado, an organization formed for the purpose of advancing high expectations through standards and assessments. The organization was formed with a different type of charge: to build a grasstops and grassroots coalition in support of the work.  Sadly, too few organizations take on that essential work.  

What's exciting about Reilly & Climb Higher is that the work has transformed into building and sustaining strong and vibrant open systems amongst the coalition members and with school districts around the state.  

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February Podcast - Dr. Ivan Duran

Welcome to the second Open System podcast! Thanks everyone for your great feedback and comments on the first podcast.  

For the second podcast, I had the chance to sit down with a longtime friend and colleague, Dr. Ivan Duran.  Dr. Duran is the Superintendent of Bellevue Public Schools in Washington state. 

I've know Dr. Duran from our time together in Denver Public Schools, where I knew him as a champion of family engagement as a major priority while he was in charge of all elementary schools in the district.  

In the podcast, we discuss why he got involved in education, why he cares about family engagement, the outcomes of best practice open system work and how he thinks about ensuring the entire system prioritizes the work.  

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Open Ecosystems

A common question about open systems is “What is required beyond the school or district for an open system to succeed? What about the broader ecosystem?”  “Yeah, it’s great to have districts or schools work with parents in co-creation - but there is an entire civic system to consider!” How can schools and districts foster the ability of other communities entities to engage with them as part of an open ecosystem?

Early in my career at Denver Public Schools, it became quite clear to me that we could push, design and implement the best family engagement or community listening opportunity with the goal of creating an open system and it still would be limited.  We'd hold open houses at multiple times, ask folks to participate in advisory groups and hold feedback sessions until we were blue in the face, but it wasn't enough.  

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Authorizing Schools in the Open System

“Authorizing” is the set of processes by which new schools are evaluated according to standardized criteria and eventually approved or denied by the Board of Education.  (The specifics vary a bit from state to state and authorizer to authorizer, but the process is essentially the same.)  In DPS, the same criteria and evaluation process is used for both charter and district-run schools.

I oversaw this process for three years until June 2017.  Our work was based mostly on a publicly available rubric to establish a standard “Quality Bar”— if an applicant can meet or exceed the quality bar, the theory goes, it will be most likely be a high quality school.

One benefit to having a centrally-determined rubric and rigorous review process for determining school quality, authorizers can be relatively confident that new schools will be high quality options for families once they open.

However, far from creating an Open System, our strategies to engage with community members to see first hand what individuals directly impacted by new schools wanted, often regrettably served a compliance function rather than lead to any shared power.

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